Twinkies to Strudel to
Rugalach: Getting to My Promised Land


Leonard Zwelling

         Heads up, Houston. Continental Airlines is dead and
supplanted by a behemoth called United that is characterized by high production
value videos to start your flight, long-winded pilots to remind you what seat
belts are for and food to die from. And the CEO feels compelled to appear in
these videos which only re-enforces your urge for the fast forward button on
your DVR remote. Ugh! If you could only walk out of this movie…

         As usual, we were two hours late out of Bush on our way to
Munich where we were to make a rather tight connection. Throughout the almost
10 hours of flying time, the flight attendants assured us that they would have
the information for us on whether or not we could make the connection and if
not, what to do next. Never happened. But I am writing to you from Lufthansa
flight 668 to Tel Aviv where the United middle-aged American stews of the red
eye to the Rhineland are not in sight having been replaced by young, attractive
Germans who really seem to care about what you might want. Not only that, they just
served me a meal that actually tasted like food at the end of which I learned
it wasn’t the end. The salad and cold meat and cheese plate that would be
considered only for purchase on United was just the beginning on Lufthansa although
I am not sure I have room for anything else. A hot meal is to follow, but I
will forego that. Leaving the land of the Twinkie for the land of strudel has
its advantages.

         Munich at the end of August is cool, yet still visibly green
from the air. Each little red-roofed housing sub-division near the
airport envelopes a similarly-tile roofed church. The steeple is the tallest
structure in each of these small burgs. Germany is still beautiful and of
course, neat, clean and efficient at the check-in gate for the Israel leg of
our trip.

         Lufthansa’s gates to Tel Aviv are very remotely located at
the extreme end of the arrival terminal. There are separate security gates that
only Israel-bound travelers can traverse. Security is appropriately tight.
After all, this is the place where some awful things have happened to My People
at nearby Dachau and at the 1972 Olympics. No chances are taken. The one thing
about the Germans is that they no longer deny their past and have sworn, as we
Jews have, never again.

         Carry-on luggage is extensively re-checked and so is each
passenger from shoes to belt to pockets. Four flights of stairs are descended
following boarding pass clearance and a three-doored bus is filled with passengers
to the plane standing far, far away from the rest of the terminal. If nothing else, you
do feel far more secure boarding a Lufthansa jet than you do boarding any
flight in the States. (Do those TSA lines feel like VICTORY to you?)

need I say that the airport itself is beautiful, modern and wholly unlike
anything in the US. To quote Tom Freidman, that used to be us.

         The United seats in Business First are indeed luxe. Every
bell and whistle is at your fingertips in a self-contained, fully reclining
world of rotten movies and worse service.

         Recently, I worked at a health care delivery system that was
led by people with no knowledge of health care. As such, they threw around the
words quality and efficiency without ever defining them, never really knowing
what was going on behind the examining room doors. This is very strange
considering 80% of the revenues came from patient care. Anderson too is led by
a group with little knowledge of modern cancer care and even less of managing a
complex operation like a 19,000 person university-based cancer center. In both
cases, the leaders got caught up in activities that had nothing to do with the
strategic, revenue-generating activities of the organization that they led
thus giving the appearance of competence when those who embodied the core competencies
of both organizations (that would be doctors) were denied any input into the
delivery of the care.

         United is like that. Of course, it appears to be a safely
run airline, but what seems to distinguish it from its competitors is the
convenience of its routes to Houstonians rather than anything like service to
the captured passengers. All form and no substance. An enterprise run by
photons—all energy and no mass.

         I have no idea whether or not Lufthansa is any different,
but it sure seems to be. And I fear that those at MD Anderson could point to
Lufthansa and say, “That Used To Be Us!”

         There are rugalach waiting for me at the shouk in Jerusalem.  Gotta go to my “just in case” home away from


as we take another van in from the Ben Gurion Airport to our hotel on the beach
at Tel Aviv, a strangely familiar melody wafts from the driver’s radio. Cyndi
Lauper sings True Colors in Englsih on an Israeli station. Listening to Cyndi
and looking at the amazing growth of Tel Aviv since my last trip 15 years ago
and noticing that the city bird of Tel Aviv and the city bird of Houston and
the TMC are the same—the construction crane—I am struck that America and
Israel have another similarity along with being the true havens for My People.

         These are both great countries!

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